VRINDAVAN: Noted for its numerous temples, the holy land of Vrindavan in Mathura district, where Lord Krishna spent his childhood, has seen a huge increase in pilgrims and tourists in recent years.
However, over-flowing drains, strewn garbage and crowded, littered streets is what greets the thousands of pilgrims who visit this historic place every year. Locals rue that Vrindavan's religious and historical relevance is slowly being taken over by urbanisation and congestion.
In an attempt to revive Vrindavan's lost glory, Times Foundation has joined hands with local bodies to create a system level change in this historic town. The Clean Vrindavan project has been started in association with ISKCON (Vrindavan and Mumbai) and NGO — Friends of Vrindavan — as a social intiative to promote spiritual tourism at large. Times Foundation is supporting the initative to clean the town with a long term vision of improving sanitation, hygiene and living conditions here.
The initiative was launched a year ago and has already made a huge difference in the town. Jagannath Poddar, director, Friends of Vrindavan said: "Keeping Vrindavan clean is not a one man-job. It requires the support and cooperation of all the people who live here and the numerous tourists who visit the town. Unfortunately, hygiene was never a priority with locals for a long time and with time, Vrindavan's streets began to resemble a dump yard."
The Clean Vrindavan project involves local government bodies, ashrams, temple trusts, shops and other establishments. Dustbins have been placed and handcarts and rickshaws have been deployed to clean the streets twice a day.
Sanitation services like house-to-house segregated waste collection has reduced the quantum of garbage at landfill sites. Work will be undertaken in three phases and is expected to be complete in the next one or two years. Phase-I leans more towards creating awareness, planting trees and placing dustbins all over Vrindavan while Phase-II will involve cleaning and covering drains and making satellite dumping grounds for garbage disposal. The final phase will see construction of more toilets in the town.
Head priests of the various temples in Vrindavan have also pledged their support. The town has over 50 big temples including the ISKCON temple, which is a partner in the Clean Vrindavan project. Devamitra Prabhuji, head of ISKCON temple, Vrindavan said: "One of the most important things to keep the town clean is to educate people on the need for hygiene. People come hear from far-off places to purify their soul and they need to be taught to keep their surroundings clean as well."
According to residents, the explosive population growth, increase in pilgrimage activity, congestion due to commercial activities, traffic movement, unplanned construction of hotels, ashrams and residential colonies have exerted increasing demands on the infrastructure of the town. This has lead to allied problems such as water shortage, air, water pollution and an unchecked felling of indigenous trees.
Spread over an area of 2.5 sqkm, Vrindavan had a population of 47,746 people (as per the 1991 census). The town, a short drive from Delhi, is visited by more than 500,000 thousand pilgrims both from India and abroad annually.
If you want to contribute for the Clean Vrindavan project, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.cleanvrindavan.org .